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Lying about Obamacare

It is too bad politicians and certain broadcast journalists aren’t obligated to tell the truth in the same manner that insurance agents are required. If they were, there might be a lot less confusion about the Affordable Care Act.

First Amendment rights being what they are, politicians can continue to misinform the public about Obamacare if they choose. It is up to the public to be discerning about whose opinions most closely match the facts at hand. While ethics should guide elected leaders, they’re much more likely to focus on what generates the most votes. Similar ethics guidelines could be followed by particular radio talk show hosts and Fox News reporters, but they’re more likely to iterate whatever boosts the audience.

Thank goodness the insurance industry not only has ethics to follow, but there are serious repercussions, including loss of license, if caught misleading the public.

An Ozawkie insurance agent recently discovered the Kansas Insurance Department is watching closely what is being said about the Affordable Care Act. A report by the Kansas Health Institute said when Scott Day of Day Solutions LLC published false and misleading information about the ACA, he received a fine of $1,000 and had to run a correction in the same publication.

Since Day also is president of the Kansas Underwriters Association and a member of the Kansas State Employees Health Care Commission, he is perceived as an expert on the 4-year-old law of the land. That made his statements particularly egregious. He made false comments about ACA plans, networks, prices, premiums and plans of care in such a manner that could lead consumers to make bad decisions about their own care.

“Politicians have free rein to lie (about the law) and deal with the consequences at the ballot box,” said Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project. “But insurance agents are licensed by the state and in exchange they agree to be truthful and provide accurate information. Fair or not, that’s the way it is.”

Weisgrau lamented the overall confusion regarding the Affordable Care Act.

“I think the public’s understanding of the law is pretty low,” he told KHI. “And there’s a couple of reasons for that: One is that it’s a big, complicated law, and it’s unreasonable to expect everyday people to understand it. That’s why it is very important for public officials and political leaders and people in the health care system to try to understand it and help the public understand it. And I think that’s what’s been missing: The role of public leadership.”

We wouldn’t expect such public leadership to emerge any time soon here in Kansas. Both state and federal lawmakers continue to decry the law and continue their futile attempts to overturn it.

But at least Kansas insurance agents stand forewarned they need to speak the truth about ACA. Their pocketbooks and license to practice will depend on it.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net